Let’s review: I received a bonus check of $1,000 from a client three weeks ago basically for doing my job: making sure the (figurative) trains were on schedule, and that the (literal) checks kept coming.
One of my options was investing that money in the continued education of one lucky stripper via the American tradition of making it rain, like my colleague. Instead, I used a general framework to save 50%. I’d suggest saving anywhere between 30% and 75% so I could spend the rest of the money completely guilt free.
A general framework works well in this situation — better than a precise system, because this isn’t recurring cash flow you can count on. If you have a strong approach that’s ingrained through practice, it’s a procedure you can use again and again. Windfalls like this aren’t going to change your life, but the system and the framework will — it will separate us from our Bosses who are still slaves to their paycheck.
Where The Money Went
$500 – Immediately goes towards savings
Success! $300 went towards funds I’ve set aside for eventually buying a house, and $200 went towards my Wedding Fund. Both these funds exist as sub-savings accounts I’ve created in ING Direct (now CapitalOne 360, but I still haven’t gotten used to the change). I’ll talk about that more in the Financial Architecture series, but these sub-savings accounts are wholly separate from my other savings accounts, e.g., Emergency Funds and Travel Funds, which helps me track how close I am to hitting specific financial goals.
$200 – To the second assistant
Success! Later, I surveyed other assistant friends to uncover what they’d have done in the same situation: do you give a cut to the second assistant, who didn’t do much to earn the money? 80 percent responded with a hearty “fuck no.” 20 percent thought $100 or $150 sufficed.
Two steps helped me stick to my gut decision to give him $200: first, the moment I got home I wrote the check and put it into my wallet. Second, the same day the check arrived, I showed it to him and said, “I’m going to give you 20 percent of this.” Verbalizing my intentioned forced me to stick with my gut instinct — regardless of how I felt about the situation later.
$200 – Spend with the girlfriend
Success! Again, I verbalized my intention right away, so she and I were on the same page. Also, I was specific about what to buy: she’d been talking about buying a pair of Rainbow sandals all summer, but never got around to it. While we shopped, she came across another pair of shoes she loved. Since I allocated myself $200 for these purchases, I bought them happily.
$100 – Something for myself
Failure! I shopped for my shoes while we were at the mall but came out empty-handed. Going back to the mall hasn’t exactly been a high priority for me — actually, it’s the farthest thing from a priority. I need to schedule it into my calendar, otherwise I just won’t go, and these next few weeks I don’t foresee myself making the time for an excursion. Eventually when I do go, however, I know I have $100 to spend, guilt-free, on whatever shoes I’d like.
I managed three out of the four goals for this $1,000. The objective was to see how closely reality aligned with my intentions. Here’s what I took away from this exercise:
- Putting these goals out in the public domain helped me accomplish them.
- For me, the best accountability system was telling the person my intention. Even if I began to doubt myself afterwards, e.g. giving the other assistant $200, I’d already given my word.
- Interestingly enough, I started this experiment just before my colleague shared with me his own windfall situation. This allowed me to easily contrast the Fighting Broke mentality versus how others in Hollywood view money, which further showed me that most people in this industry have an attitude towards finances that’s going to lead to a lot of heartache and stress years down the line.
Photo Credit: bchow